WalkerandDouglassNotes

WalkerandDouglassNotes - David Walker, Appeal to the...

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David Walker, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World The evangelism of this book is based in the effort to a) give African-Americans cause to see their worth as individuals and as a people, and thereby incite them to rise against oppression and b) a recognition of the value of churches – institutions African-Americans could control and through which they could become empowered. Walker’s goal was to unite African-Americans, cause them to see their shared miserable condition and induce them to resist oppression collectively. Walker’s keys to transforming America were activism, repentance and reformation. The style of the text is meant to sound like the popular sermons by black religious figures. All this is further tied to the millennialism of 1830s Abolitionism. Walker recognized that African-Americans were made to be inferior through social conventions, but also recognized the power of the belief held by whites – and reinforced through leaders like Thomas Jefferson – that African-Americans were naturally inferior. Walker thus seeks to oppose both the practice and the ideology of racial prejudice. Walker feared that continued submission by blacks would only reinforce the stereotypes believed by most whites. Walker’s Appeal comes at a critical moment where racism and democracy are expanding concurrently, even as free African-American communities were becoming more organized and African-American leaders were becoming more well-known and confident. Walker saw American society as redeemable: his goal was to force America to live up to lofty ideals of the Founders and the Puritan vision of America as a ‘city on a hill.’ The use of Christian themes is also in part an effort to shame white America for its moral failings. His belief in the core values of antebellum America – freedom, individual improvement, economic opportunity and Protestant evangelism – allowed him to criticize the nation imminently, and thus made him seem to be less of a threat to white America. Walker’s desire to redeem America may limit the text by preventing him from seeing how fully and deeply racism was interwoven with various American institutions and ideals. This book terrified Southern officials, who took every effort to monitor and prevent the spread of the text. Many were killed for possessing, distributing and reading the text, and Walker’s words sparked the lingering fear of slave rebellions. Walker’s first goal is to show, “to the satisfaction of the most incredulous mind that we colored people of these United States are, the most wretched, degraded and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began,” (2). He heightens the power of this by arguing that Christian America treats its slaves more brutally than any ‘heathen’ nation ever did theirs (3). He hopes every African-American will read or hear his Appeal and be spurred to act by its message. Walker foresees the violent reaction his
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WalkerandDouglassNotes - David Walker, Appeal to the...

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